One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A large extinct flightless auk (seabird) of the North Atlantic, resembling a giant razorbill. The great auk was the original ‘penguin’; many were taken for food, and the last individuals were killed on an islet off Iceland in 1844.
Alca or 'Pinguinus' impennis, family Alcidae
- ‘Some have become extinct, the great auk, the passenger pigeon and the famous dodo bird have all disappeared.’
- ‘Apart from the globally-extinct great auk, the bustard is the only bird known to have bred in Britain that hasn't done so in recent times.’
- ‘Before the great auk became extinct in the 1840s, you could have been pardoned for making the classic mistake and supposing there were penguins in the Arctic as well as the Antarctic, the cold north as well as the cold south.’
- ‘The tiny island is home to one of the largest gannet colonies on the planet, and this is where the world's last two surviving great auks are reputed to have lived before they were killed by fishermen on 3 June 1844.’
- ‘In the early 19th century another alcid, the great auk, still inhabited the North Atlantic waters.’
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